One of the final images of the first fight between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson was Dawson yelling across the ring at Hopkins.
Dawson was making accusations that Hopkins was faking the shoulder injury that ended their bout after two rounds to get out of the fight, which eventually was declared a no contest. Dawson was angry, believing Hopkins had pulled a fast one, therefore robbing him of the chance to get a huge win in decisive style over the aging legend -- and take his title.
Now, six months later, not much has changed. As Dawson prepares for his rematch Saturday with Hopkins at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, he still believes Hopkins faked the shoulder injury in the last fight and is still angry at the result. Dawson feels Hopkins' act of getting out of the first fight will only help him going into this fight.
"On my behalf, the way the last fight ended, I could only take it as a confidence-builder," Dawson said. "I don't believe Bernard Hopkins was hurt. He showed he really didn't want to be in the ring with me that night, so it's a confidence-booster for me. I want to go in there and pick up where we left off. I want to be the aggressor. I want to make him fight and give the fans what they came to see last time, a real fight.
"He said he dislocated his shoulder, but we didn't see any doctors or things like that so my confidence is through the roof right now."
Hopkins' medical report from the California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles on the night of the Oct. 15 fight stated he was X-rayed and diagnosed with a separation of the AC joint that connects the collarbone and shoulder blade. Hopkins reportedly said soon afterward he had an MRI that confirmed the hospital's diagnosis.
Dawson's promoter, Gary Shaw, agreed with his fighter.
"I'm just going to say I never thought Hopkins was hurt," Shaw said. "I still don't believe Hopkins was ever hurt. We never heard anything about his rehabbing or anything else. My only fear is that Hopkins would not go through with the entire fight. Somewhere during this fight, if he's getting a beating from Chad, (Hopkins) will find a way to get out of the fight."
Dawson is known for being a cerebral boxer. He is seen as someone who is content to outbox his opponent to a points win, but he believes he was the aggressor against Hopkins and will have plenty more to offer this time around. Dawson said he will be on the attack to force Hopkins into a fan-friendly fight.
"I think the last fight, I deserve credit for being the aggressor and being the one to try and bring the fight," he said. "I was the aggressor. I was pressing the fight. I tried to get Bernard to fight, but he didn't show any signs he wanted to fight until the fight was over."
Dawson did, at one point, show respect for his opponent's accomplishments.
"Like I tell everybody, I admire everything he's done in the sport of boxing over the last few years. To become the oldest world champion," Dawson said, "those are things you can't take away from Bernard Hopkins. The only thing I can do is go out there and dethrone him. I want to be the world champion. I want the same recognition that Bernard gets."
Then it was back to making his points. Dawson said Hopkins was up to his tricks he is so well-known for in the ring during the two rounds of their first go-round. Dawson says he expected Hopkins to fight dirty.
"I think he did everything we thought he would," Dawson said. "He started head-butting early, all his dirty tactics. He kept jumping on my back. Everything he did that night we expected. Even when he hit the canvas, we knew he wasn't getting back up. Gonna fake it 'til he made it."
Chad Dawson spoke bold words. The question will be whether he can back them up. Can a fighter known for being relaxed and passive in the ring fight with the fire with which he spoke? Can a young gun succeed against Hopkins where so many others have failed? Dawson is not the first to talk about being the aggressor against Hopkins. Others have tried, only to find it is easier said than done.
If Dawson comes through on his talk, he will have a win that will take him to new heights and will have the name of an all-time great on his resume. For his part, Dawson is looking not only to win, but to make sure it is a complete victory that leaves no doubts about who is champion.
"That's the goal. That's my plan. I want to beat him," Dawson said. "If it goes 12 rounds, I want to win 11 or 12 of those rounds. I'm looking to go out and beat Bernard in a great fashion that no one can say, 'Oh but this, oh but that.' I don't even want a close fight. I want to beat him decisive."